In today’s cinematic landscape, superhero films can be an actor’s bullet-train ticket to superstardom , whether in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or the DC shared universe (DC Extended Universe). True, they are not the most sought-after acting gigs. In fact, some directors, and actors, think they are the lowest common denominator and killing true Hollywood storytelling. There is no denying, however, that superhero films, for the time being, rule the box office. Many actors have seen their careers take off after appearing as an iconic comic book character, including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston. Established actors saw their careers achieve new heights thanks to comic book character roles, including Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Pratt. Sure, one day these MCU actors’ roles will end, but their stratospheric status will be around for a long time.
However, some actors choose to take roles in the MCU when they probably had no business doing so. Did they think that being in a superhero film would automatically boost their career as it did for some others? Did they really believe in the role? Unfortunately, there are quite a few actors who haven’t been successful, even after delivering solid performances. Others failed to nail the character quite right and were dismal failures. Here, we are just taking a look at Marvel films and below you’ll find fifteen cases of actors who failed to deliver the goods. Whether they were miscast, were the victims of bad writing, or were just horrible actors, I think it’s quite clear these actors should’ve steered clear of these roles.
15. Paul Giamatti – Aleksei Sytsevich (Rhino)
Okay, so technically The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was not part of the official MCU, but now that Sony has allowed the MCU to conditionally re-acquire Spider-Man, we will choose to include this. I guess we can all be thankful that ASM2 wasn’t an MCU film, as it tanked the franchise and caused Sony to come crawling to Marvel (okay, an exaggeration, I know). Regardless, Paul Giamatti found himself horribly miscast as Aleksei Sytsevich, a.k.a. Rhino. Giamatti is an incredible actor but really? Do you really buy him as the track-suit-wearing, bad-tattoo-having, Russian mobster in a superhero flick? We didn’t think so. He ends up looking more like a real cartoon caricature than a super villain. It is not Giamiatti’s fault, to be sure. He can only work with what he’s been given. If they truly wanted to bring Rhino to the big screen, maybe they should’ve gone with an imposing unknown actor, or a former professional wrestler.
14. Sylvester Stallone – Stakar Ogord (Starhawk)
Sylvester Stallone is a world-famous action star, and there’s no denying that. One of the biggest reveals of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, was Stallone as Stakar Ogord, otherwise known as Starhawk, one of the original Guardians from comics. However, with James Gunn leaving the open possibility for Stallone’s character to continue in the MCU makes me cringe. We know Gunn intends to utilize that original Guardians crew in some manner going forward, but to what extent is unknown. If his character is just used as a plot device to help push Chris Pratt and crew further along, that’s great. If the film is going to feature Stallone alongside Pratt, or even in his own film, then I do believe that would be a mistake. No matter what role you put Stallone in, he’s Stallone. He’s more of a personality than an actor (other than in Cop Land in 1997. He definitely played against type there). Nothing against Stallone, but they shouldn’t have gone with an A-lister if they were thinking of an MCU future for the character.
13. Jennifer Garner – Elektra Natchios
You can’t talk about past Marvel films without raising Jennifer Garner’s role as Elektra. Garner was already a noted television action star because of her role as Sydney Bristow in the hit series Alias. I’m sure, at the time, the filmmakers believed she would be a natural. Indeed, she actually did quite well in Daredevil (2003). However, when they offered her with her own spinoff, Elektra (2005), she should’ve passed. Again, Garner put in a great performance and her action scenes were good; she was good. The rest of the film was a mess. The script, the story, everything was just completely lacking. Instead of transitioning Garner from television action star to blockbuster film star, Elektra pretty much shut her out of the action film biz. The film was a commercial and critical flop. Though she’s continued to land good roles, she has never again thrown a cinematic punch, despite having the physique for it.
12. Lee Pace – Ronan the Accuser
Ronan the Accuser is an indomitable presence, a force to be reckoned with. Although Guardians of the Galaxy portrayed Ronan as an unbeatable bada*s, he still came across as a “pouty boy,” as Thanos put it in the film. Is that Lee Pace’s fault? Was it the writers’ fault? Pace’s Ronan, despite his strength, comes across almost laughable and whiny in the film, even melodramatic. He never really comes across as the threat that we all know he really is. Pace should’ve brought more depth to the character, like Ronan in the comics. If Marvel wanted to just have Ronan be brute muscle and power-hungry, why go to Lee Pace? Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge film, one of my favorite MCU films, as a matter of fact. Marvel took a big chance with James Gunn and his band of space misfits and it paid off; however, Lee Pace kind of came up short as the main villain.
11. Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver)
While I appreciated Elizabeth Olsen’s performance, despite her accent, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s portrayal of Quicksilver was way too one-dimensional. Quicksilver is a fiercely proud character, full of frustration and anger, and very over-protective of his sister. However, none of that really comes across in the film. All we get is the character’s sense of being a showboat. Who could’ve done a better job? That is unclear. I do know that Taylor-Johnson just didn’t quite deliver what many fans were expecting. Could the character have been more developed? Sure, but they killed him off. Olsen grew into the role and delivered the goods in her next MCU film. Could he have done the same? We’ll never know. As it stands, Taylor-Johnson’s portrayal is boring and lacks the emotional depth it should have had. Think about it; when Loki killed Agent Coulson in Avengers, people cried. Did they do the same when Quicksilver sacrificed himself for Hawkeye? The audience just couldn’t make an emotional connection with Taylor-Johnson’s portrayal.
10. Elizabeth Olsen – Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch)
This is nothing against Elizabeth Olsen. She’s not bad in the role at all. However, she’s not really all that good either. Her debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron was less than stellar, and her attempt at some sort of accent was so bad that many of the viewers were distracted when they should have been immersed in the film’s plot. True, who knows what a Sokovian accent should sound like (it’s a fictional country, after all), but Olsen’s attempt was just annoying and awkward. Many enjoyed the film and Olsen delivered a solid performance in Captain America: Civil War, but if you pay attention, you may notice that the accent dissipated in that film and was very inconsistent. She has great chemistry with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but since they killed him in the first film, many can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if she had just passed on the role.
9. Nicolas Cage – Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider)
Ghost Rider (2007) was a project that was supposedly a passion project for Cage, a known comic fan. The supernatural world where Ghost Rider exists really needed a delicate, grounded story to keep the film from coming off as a cheesy fantasy flick. The producers really needed an actor who could be believable as a flaming skulled-demon avenger riding a motorcycle. That’s no small task. Instead, the filmmakers decided to go the route of casting the scenery-chewing, over-the-top madman known as Nicolas Cage. Don’t get me wrong; put Cage in the proper film and he’ll give you an Academy Award-worthy performance. In Ghost Rider, though, he ended up coming off as straight-up absurd. Again, maybe with this character, they should’ve gone with a lesser-known actor with the qualities you would want to see in Johnny Blaze: rugged, bada*s, fearless, and filled with internal pain. Really, whether passionate about the character or not, Cage should’ve steered clear of this one.
8. Ben Affleck – Matt Murdock (Daredevil)
Technically, Daredevil (2003) is not considered part of the MCU, but the character is. I mean, now that Kevin Feige has made it known that the MCU and the television/Netflix properties again might one day crossover into each other, all bets are off! That being said, Marvel has undoubtedly given us the best possible version of Daredevil in the Netflix shows. Nothing against Ben Affleck, as he is a great actor (he was the bomb in Phantoms) and many believe that he found his calling in portraying Bruce Wayne/Batman in the DC films. As Matt Murdock, many found Affleck a stretch. I mean, possibly the only good thing about that film was that Evanescence song. Firstly, Affleck as a blind martial arts master is not even remotely believable. As a red-headed, blind, martial arts master, that’s it! I’m done. Seriously, though, I can suspend my disbelief and watch a blind attorney in red leather perform acrobatics atop the New York skyline. Ben Affleck in that red leather is where we will have to draw the line.
7. Dane DeHaan – Harry Osborne (Green Goblin)
Another Amazing Spider-Man 2 performance? Is anyone shocked? Willem Dafoe’s performance as the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie was good. Whether it was director Marc Webb or the writers, whoever decided to age the character of Harry Osborne down and change the backstory evidently made the wrong move. Dane DeHaan was a young actor with promise. He gave great performances in Chronicle (2012) and the acclaimed film Kill Your Darlings (2013). I’m sure he thought accepting this choice role would be a surefire shot at superstardom. Instead, the writing was subpar and the film ended up not being very well-received. He failed to capture the maniacal madness that we’ve come to expect from our Goblin. DeHaan’s performance ended up hurting his career more than helping it. I know, we can’t really blame this one on DeHaan. He can only work with what’s given to him. This is one role he should’ve steered clear from and stayed on his previous acting path.
6. Christopher Eccleston – Malekith
Christopher Eccleston was Doctor Who. We expect much from our former Doctors. However, MCU fans were left thinking, why would Marvel give us such a poor take on the ruler of the Dark Elves, and why would Eccleston take on the role if he wasn’t going to bring his A-game? Something clearly did not work at all here. Was it the writing? Was it simply that Eccleston didn’t care? Malekith in Thor: The Dark World lacked any intensity, any flare, or any fierceness. It was a completely boring and lackluster performance. I mean, where was the emotional depth? Some people may have heard the rumor that Eccleston really had no clue what he was doing in the film, and just did it for the paycheck. This is not completely unbelievable, given the performance. Whether that’s true or not, many people wish Eccleston would’ve passed on this film. He came across as a total disappointment as a Marvel villain.
5. Natalie Portman – Jane Foster
It is impossible not to like Natalie Portman. Ever since the Star Wars prequels, however, she just can’t get her mojo back. Many had high hopes for Portman as Jane Foster. The character has a rich and complex history in the comics, yet she was never really explored in the MCU. For such a talented actor, Portman’s portrayal was a bit flat. Most fans never really bought the romance between her and Thor, and all the real punchy dialogue went to Kat Dennings. However, overall her performance in Thor (2011) was solid. By Thor: The Dark World (2013), she was relegated to simply a plot device. Then in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), she was gone entirely. What a waste of a great character, especially one that was being portrayed by such a talented actor. Unfortunately, Portman’s work in the Thor franchise will never be cited among her best roles and it could have been for this Academy Award winner. She was a wasted talent.
4. Guy Pearce – Aldrich Killian
As Aldrich Killian, Guy Pearce was believable and portrayed that character well enough. Once he was revealed as the real Mandarin in the third act, many threw their hands up in the air. The mockery he made of comic mythos really disappointed many hardcore fans. Marvel has since played with the story to leave open the possibility that the real Mandarin is still out there somewhere. Nevertheless, Pearce as any semblance of Mandarin left much to be desired. It would have been more believable had they left Kingsley as the real Mandarin. Pearce is a good actor, but after reading the script and learning that he was to be revealed at the end to be the Mandarin, he should’ve turned it down. If the Mandarin was a top-level corporate raider and oversaw a criminal empire from his penthouse office, sure, I can see Pearce doing that one. However, the Mandarin is a being who borders on the mystical and has his hands in all kinds of dirty affairs worldwide. Pearce doesn’t have that kind of range.
3. Tim Roth – Emil Blonsky (The Abomination)
If we’re going to talk about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, you have to discuss the miscasting of Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky. Roth was great on Fox’s Lie to Me. He’s a great actor. However, you can’t take a British actor and have him portray a Slavic soldier in the British Royal Marines, put him for some reason in a U.S. Army Special Forces uniform, and then turn him into a super villain monster. That’s a stretch, even for an actor with range. It is a lot to ask of any actor. Honestly, Roth tried, but failed, to portray a battle-hardened special operations officer and succeeded in coming across as an angry Brit. I know, some will say he can only work with what he’s given, but I think that was a role Roth should’ve passed on. He did not seem to be the right fit, and the cast directors made a big mistake with this one. The Abomination might have been a character the filmmakers should’ve passed on.
2. Mickey Rourke – Ivan Vanko (Whiplash)
In the list of major disappointments in MCU villains, Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko ranks up there near the top. His portrayal as Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 (2010) probably looked like a good decision on paper. However, when once it was all said and done, Rourke’s performance came across very differently. The character seemed to be more of an unstable, possibly drunk, stereotypical gangster who happens to be able to build robots. Trying to get us to believe he was a physicist was difficult, to say the least. He practically phoned that performance in. That role should have gone to a younger actor. Sure, they could make him physically imposing (he was in a Soviet-era Gulag, after all), but at least someone with some personality and physical ability would be great. Rourke just kind of trudged his way through his scenes, slurring his words. I mean, did Rourke do any research at all?
1. Dolph Lundren – Frank Castle (The Punisher)
Again, not actually MCU, but since that character has now been incorporated, we are going to allow it. Before Jon Bernthal gave us his kick-ass version, we had the pretty decent outing with Tom Jane. Before Jane, though, Marvel gave us The Punisher (1989), starring Dolph Lundgren. Yeah, if you never saw that one, don’t worry. You’re not missing anything; stick to Jon Bernthal. It should be remembered that this film, which was released theatrically overseas, went straight-to-DVD in the United States. It was not well-received. This was not a good time in Marvel’s filmmaking story (watch Howard the Duck or those cheesy Captain America TV movies). First, take Dolph Lundren, a highly-educated martial arts expert, who is really good in the Expendables movies. At that time, he was just too stiff and lacked any of the emotional components needed to accurately portray the anger, as well the never-ending love for his dead family, which drives Frank Castle to do what he does.
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